There was a core Google algorithm update last weekend, and the SEO community is largely still scrambling to figure out what just happened. Here’s what we do definitely know:
Brand Name Keywords On Current-Event Sites Were Far And Away The Biggest Change
The most significant change brought about by the core algorithm update has to do with what results Google puts up for searches about brand names. So if you search for “Target,” for example, you’ll see several different pages today than you would a week ago.
Specifically, websites that do current-event/news-style pages are now more time-sensitive than they were before. So if you had an old article about the Target credit card hack on, say, howstuffworks.com, you probably saw that article plummet. But if you had a shiny new article about how GE is moving its headquarters to Boston, you probably saw your ranking rise significantly.
Also, many sites saw their older brand-name keyword posts simply fall off of the map to be replaced by more results from the brand-name company itself. This was particularly true if that brand didn’t have any major newsworthy events in the past few weeks. Basically, Google now assumes that if you search for “Dollar Shave Club,” you want to see pages by Dollar Shave Club, not pages about Dollar Shave Club — unless Dollar Shave Club did something so outrageous that they’re literally making news (again).
Takeaway: If your news-y site suddenly lost a bunch of traffic due to brand-related articles falling off, create new content with fresh, more evergreen information about the brand. Consider consolidating your juice with a tag or category page dedicated to that brand. But if there’s nothing current and useful to write about, maybe pick a more relevant brand — or just wait. Every brand gets in hot water eventually.
User Intent Has Become Even More Important Than Before
User Intent has been a factor in Google results since the dawn of Google. But after this update, the algorithm seems to have bumped it up in importance by a decent amount — at least, for certain websites. Notably, several websites that feature almost no content that the Google bots can read — but that still manage to capture people’s attention — are suddenly rising in the ranks.
For example, a website that contains almost no text and literally no images or video, but serves mostly as the platform for a Flash-based video game, might manage to lure a player in for several minutes before they click away. That site has almost zero ranking signals going for it — but because user intent is more important than ever, the simple fact that you stop and play for a while means the site will get a boost in the rankings.
Takeaway: No matter what kind of site you run, take the time to create an engaging and useful user experience. The more people interact with, return to, and simply fail to click away from your site, the better your rankings will get.
Google Confirmed that Panda Is Now Part of the Core Algorithm
A sub-algorithm designed to penalize pages with crappy content or that created poor user experiences, Panda has been updated independently from the core algorithm for years. But Google confirmed over the weekend that — not as a part of this update, but some indefinite amount of time ago — Panda has been fused into the core algorithm.
Takeaway: While a lot of SEO people are making a big deal out of this, the only real-world effect of this change is that Google will no longer announce changes to the Panda algorithm, because there is no Panda algorithm. Any changes made to the way that poor content is penalized will simply be core algorithm changes from here on out. If you want to understand how Panda works, this guide is probably the best I’ve seen — check it out!
— And that’s it! In all likelihood, most of you saw very little changes to most of your pages because of this. But if you did, don’t worry: there are definitely steps you can take to get back on top of things. Ring me up, and let’s talk.